Although it’s not a game week, it’s business as usual for the Pittsburgh Steelers, including for Steelers offensive coordinator Matt Canada.
About a month after a report surfaced that the Steelers planned to depart with Canada, sports radio host Andrew Fillipponi of 93.7 The Fan reported on January 13 that Canada is expected to return.
“99.9 percent Canada is back,” tweeted Fillipponi.
Fillipponi also said on his radio show that “the point one percentage” is to account for an unexpected circumstance.
Canada just finished his second season as Steelers offensive coordinator. The Steelers were 21st in points and 23rd in yards last year, which was Ben Roethlisberger’s final NFL season.
With rookie Kenny Pickett starting most of 2022, the Steelers were 26th in points and 23rd in yards this year.
The Pros & Cons to Bringing Back Canada for 2023
When the Steelers were sitting at 2-6, there weren’t many pros to think of with Canada. But with the second half turnaround from the Steelers, Canada may have saved his job.
At the very least, he reportedly earned the respect of his players.
“What I’ve heard is that they thought he was a bum the first half of the year,” said The Athletic’s Mark Kaboly while appearing as a guest on 93.7 The Fan. “But once it started working is when they gained a little respect for him, play call-wise.”
That gels with what running back Najee Harris told the media after the season finale on January 8.
“We all believe in Matt Canada,” said Harris.
“All that play calling stuff, I think that’s just a coverup for just the lack of stuff that we were doing on the field as players. I never bought into none of that … Cause I know at the end of the day, we’re the ones who gotta make the plays.”
Harris is referring to Canada’s critics who say he is too repetitive with his play-calling.
The Steelers’ final offensive totals don’t really support bringing back Canada. The Washington Commanders fired offensive coordinator Scott Turner, who led a unit who averaged 18.9 points per game.
The Tennessee Titans and New York Jets also fired their offensive coordinators after averaging 17.5 and 17.4 points per game, respectively.
Canada’s offense posted 18.1 points per contest in 2022.
The argument to keep Canada, though, is that the Steelers improved offensively as the season went. It would also be better for Pickett to focus on the weaknesses in his game during his first NFL offseason rather than learn a new playbook.
Canada Earned Third Season With Strong Second Half?
With the offseason now in full swing, it may be some time until head coach Mike Tomlin has to answer why the Steelers plan to keep Canada (assuming the report is correct) for 2023. But presumably, the answer to that question is because of the much stronger second half to the season.
After their Week 9 bye week, the Steelers gained an identity as a running offense, posting 146 rushing yards per game and 4.2 yards per carry. The Steelers scored more than 23 points four times in their final eight games; they went over the 23-point total zero times in the first nine contests.
Pittsburgh’s offense still wasn’t super explosive through the air, but Pickett developed nice chemistry with fellow rookie George Pickens, which stretched the field a little. That opened things up a little bit more for wideout Diontae Johnson and tight end Pat Freiermuth.
Pickett also started taking care of the ball. After throwing 8 interceptions in his first five NFL appearances, he had only 1 pick with 5 touchdowns passes in his final eight games.
If Tomlin plans to bring back Canada, it’s likely because he sees the offense continuing to run the ball effectively and managing the game by limiting turnovers from Pickett. That’s a recipe the Steelers’ rode to a 7-2 finish in the final nine weeks of the 2022 season.